First Takes on Leopard – Spaces and Stacks

My favorite feature of the new Leopard update to OS X? Has to be Time Machine, but I’m going to give that feature some time to prove itself and talk about a close second in this post.

I didn’t initially think that Spaces would be something I would use. When I first switched from Windows to a Mac, I was so thoroughly dazzled by Expose that I didn’t think it could ever be replaced. Just squeeze the sides of the mighty mouse and all of your windows appear together on your desktop, click a window and it instantly comes to the top. After experiencing Expose in Tiger, I loathed using the Windows taskbar at work – so clunky, old fashioned and slow.

But now here comes another great feature that even tops Expose in my mind. Select from a grid of two to sixteen virtual desktops (spaces) and switch among them with a keyboard shortcut or mouse action. And the kicker for me is that after creating the workspaces, you can assign applications to those workspaces so they always come up in that space – what a concept! No more crowded screens – this is a multi-taskers dream.

Spaces View

So how do I use it. I’ll show you how as I walk through the setup of spaces.

  1. Start by going into preferences and selecting Expose and Spaces.
  2. Click on the Spaces tab at the top of the dialog box.
  3. Click on the checkbox to Enable Spaces.
  4. Add as many rows or columns as desired.
  5. Click on the + to add an application assignment and choose the space number desired.
  6. Change the keyboard assignments as desired.

Setup Spaces

Now that Spaces is configured, just start using the applications that you assigned to spaces. As you do, they will automatically open up in their own desktop. Keep in mind that shortcuts and widgets (those that permit specific assignment on the desktop) will appear on all desktops, a good feature for things like clocks and calendars you always want displayed.

And while the keyboard assignments work great, I prefer to use the mouse to select spaces, so I have also assigned two of my extra mouse keys to moving forward and backward through spaces. This really makes using spaces convenient, but you’ll need a mouse with more than the basic buttons. I use the Logitech Revolution MX mouse with eight buttons and two wheels – lots of room for assigning all of these new features to mouse actions.

This is the new feature in Leopard that displays a folder in the dock and which can be customized to show its contents as a stack of icons or a grid.

While many have judged Stacks as simple eye candy, or worse, cumbersome, I find this new feature useful for a couple of reasons. While previous versions of OS X permitted you to change the image used in the folders placed on the dock, it involved some fancy footwork using the information properties of the file. Leopard, on the other hand, automatically assigns a useful image to many of the items placed in stacks. A picture of the last file downloaded in the download folder, an image of the first application in the applications folder, a picture of the last document modified in the document folder.


I also like the fact that these stacks can be modified to present their contents in several sort orders. Just click and hold on a stacks icon in the dock and select the desired options from the context menu. I keep documents in last modified order so the first in the stack is the last I worked on. I keep the downloads folder in order by date added (most recent first) and the applications folder in alphabetical order. I do wish there was a sort option for the applications folder for date last accessed. This would allow you to keep the most recent applications within easy access from the stack.

Another great thing about stacks is it encourages users to keep downloads going to an accessible location. This keeps the novice, and their support personnel, from searching all over for that document or image they just downloaded. As soon as the download finishes, its right there at the bottom of the download stack.

So there you have it, two great new features of Leopard . . . with more to come in the next post. John

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